This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Four from the book A Beautiful Glittering Lie by J D R Hawkins.
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A week later, she learned that a list of fatalities had been posted, and knew she had to drive to Ben Johnson’s mercantile to have a look, but all the while, her heart felt as though it was breaking. She dreaded the list, dreaded the result of the terrible fighting, dreaded what the war might be doing to her home, and especially, dreaded seeing Hiram’s name listed. Traveling alone, she reached her destination, climbed down from the wagon, hitched her draft horse, and approached the two-story wooden structure. Her ankle boots clunked up the wooden steps and across the porch’s pine slat floorboards with every step she took. She pulled the front door open, and a tiny bell above it announced her arrival. Upon entering, she saw several others gathered around a notice tacked to a wall. Ben Johnson nodded her way. He threw a glance toward the posted list. She knew what it meant.
Slowly, feeling like she was floating, she approached the others, passing by the dry goods, the glass cases displaying pottery, clothing, and sewing notions, and under farm equipment hanging from the ceiling rafters. Some of the women were sobbing, covering their faces with handkerchiefs, while others turned away, or stared at her with vacant eyes. As they drifted off, she stepped toward the ominous poster, held her breath, and forced herself to gaze upon the names. When she had reached the bottom, she breathed a sigh of relief. Hiram’s name wasn’t on the list, although she recognized one that was. Turning toward the counter, she wiped a trickling tear from her cheek, walked over, and requested a copy of the Southern Advocate.
Initially at a loss for words, Ben cleared his throat. “I reckon Hiram’s name ain’t on there,” he finally said.
The revelation started sinking in. Caroline smiled. “No, thankfully not.”
Ben returned the smile. “Right glad to hear it.” He handed her a newspaper. “The editor of this paper, Mr. William Figures, has a son who’s with your husband’s regiment.”
“Oh?” she replied cordially. “He’s all right, ain’t he? I mean, I didn’t see …”
“Yes, ma’am, far as I can tell.”
“That’s mighty fine. Well, I’ll be on my way. Good-day, Mr. Johnson.” Turning to leave, she opened the paned-glass door.
Ben called out, “When you write to that man of yours, tell him I said hello.”
“I surely will,” she replied.
Returning to the wagon, she untied Joe Boy, climbed aboard, slapped the reins, and drove out of view from the mercantile before pulling the vehicle to a stop. Uncontrollably, she burst into tears, sobbing convulsively until the ache in her heart finally subsided. She couldn’t show her weakness to her children. For them, she had to be strong. Wiping her eyes with her handkerchief, she drove on toward home.
After she arrived, she went into the summer kitchen to prepare supper. Her son would return from the fields soon, and he was always famished. She smiled at the thought. He had grown so tall in the last year that he now towered over his father at six feet. She wondered if he would ever stop growing. Counting her blessings, she said a silent prayer to her maker for preserving her family, her Hiram. The war couldn’t end too soon.
Josie and Rena rode into the barnyard on Sally.
“Where have you two been off to?” she hollered through the screen.
They slid off the mare and came into the kitchen. “We went over to Miss Lizzie’s,” Rena replied, referring to her friend Elizabeth Ryan, who was the same age as she. “And you’ll never guess what we learned today!”
“Do tell,” Caroline responded, smiling at her lovely daughters.
“Miss Lizzie’s pa and two of her brothers were talkin’ about the battle up in Virginee,” said Josie excitedly, her childish voice squeaking. “And they said we won!”
“That’s grand news, Josie.” Caroline hugged her. “Is your brother still out yonder in the bean field?”
“No, ma’am,” answered Josie.
“We didn’t see him out there on our way home,” Rena added. “I’ll be in my room if you need me.”
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